Missouri lies in the middle of the great North American heartland, with a fauna that reflects influences from all directions. Being east of center, our state will always fall within the “eastern” volume of any two-volume field guide; yet one can feel a pull from the West at the sight of a Swainson’s Hawk or a Greater Roadrunner…or a Collared Lizard on a cedar glade. Missouri is also equidistant from the Canadian border and the Gulf coast, so that we have such nesting birds as Swainson’s Warbler and Painted Bunting in the southernmost counties, and Mississippi Kite more widely, while winter visitors like Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, and Glaucous Gull are regular in the more northerly parts.
Missouri’s topography is defined mainly by rolling farmland with remnant prairie to the north and west, and the forested Ozarks and the flat alluvial plain in the south and southeast. These habitats make the state a haven both for woodland species like Cerulean Warbler and for open-country birds like Dickcissel. The Mississippi River, forming the eastern border, and the Missouri River, which bisects the state, offer migration corridors and stopover locations for waterfowl, shorebirds, larids, raptors, and landbirds, as do several large National Wildlife Refuges and an abundance of state Conservation Areas.
With this strategic location and diverse terrain, Missouri has a healthy bird list of 438 species; this includes five that are extinct, three others that formerly lived here but have been extirpated, and 11 that are provisional. As in every state, many of our listed birds are accidental or casual visitors; these amount to about 80 species, leaving us with about 340 regular birds that are seen annually somewhere in the state. The Annotated Checklist is a great resource to help you pin down where and when you might find each of Missouri’s birds, and how likely they might be. Have fun birding!